Collect better data.
I normally wouldn't post this image so close after this one, it being essentially the same, but I wanted to present the two photographs side by side to illustrate a point. Rarely is successful photography about technical precision or image resolution, but ceteris paribus, better data means better photographs. I've spent most of my photographic energy recently in collecting extremely high resolution panoramas, which is not only addicting, but has also impressed upon me just what benefits come from higher resolution, more accurate exposure and careful post-processing. The emotion, mood and subject of a photograph are far more important than its resolution, bit-depth or any other technical aspect. But, too often, I find that the aforementioned emotional impact of the image is correlated with better technical image quality. At the bare minimum, it can be said that technical quality doesn't hurt an image - it always being possible to reduce pixel count, blur, vignette, etc. I like to think of photography as half creation, half data collection. Collecting good data is a craft; collecting great data, an art. My imperative, "collect better data," means take better photographs by mastering the art of data acquisition. I know, the scientist in me is showing. Collecting better data, meanwhile, will be a topic at the workshop.
So what do I mean by better data? Well, in this case, I mean a panorama of 50+ megapixels instead of the paltry 12 of the single capture photograph below. It may not always be the case that higher resolutions achieve better tonality and more accurate color reproduction, but the difference between the two photographs here should serve as an example of just what a large difference there can be from a moderate increase in overall resolution. I like the single capture image - it's one of my new favorites, but it can't compare to the composite panorama. All those extra megapixels mean the transitions between rock and sky, between waterfall and wood, occur over a greater distance. That extra data gives more room to pull detail, color and light out in the final image. What's more, I used to labor under the apprehension that panoramas couldn't capture action. Motion wasn't a possibility in panoramic imaging, or so I thought. It turns out, with some practice, you can capture just about anything - like the silhouettes of those two sparrows darting around, rejoicing in the brisk morning air and the golden curtains of a glorious sunrise, hung over the center of the valley. Judge for yourself:
Here's a crop (at 50% resolution) of those birds: